Yes folks we have made it, in spite of many people’s warnings and horror stories, to the Centro Historico of Ciudad de Mexico. It took us quite a while as we took our time visiting a few world famous surf spots and then navigated our way through the switch backs of the MEXICO 134, probably the most beautiful road in the world. Now we are in the Hotel Virreyes drinking a cerveza negra and enjoying the deafening noises of evening Mexico City pouring through the window. What could be a more inspiring place to write to you all? I think the topics of note this last week were my sorry attempts of surfing and the surprisingly lush mountain region of south-western Mexico.
We last wrote you all from Colima, where we were quite impressed by the city. The people where all so nice, the streets clean, and beautiful plazas with fountains and people of all ages seemed to be scattered around the city. These are all details that become quite apparent after one drives through so many of these Mexican cities. From there we headed down in elevation to the coast in search of some surf. By early afternoon we pulled into the little pueblo surf spot of La Ticla where we were met by beautiful waves and more than a few surfers from around the world.
So far in the trip I have been quite eager to get out and surf. Every day that Jeremy and I paddle out to sea I get a little more comfortable with the awkward buoyancy of my surfboard and learn a thing or two about the ocean. The problem thus far though is that we haven’t found the best beginner waves, and, sadly for me, La Ticla was not the best place to learn. We spent a few days there though, Jeremy paddled out several times and I watched the locals in awe of how easy they made it look. Next we continued south to Rio Nexpa, another highly recommended surf spot.
Rio Nexpa as it turns out is a little spec of paradise in this world of ours. We could spot its glassy break a few miles north from the windy Mexico 200 and both got quite excited as we pulled off the highway and down the hidden cobblestone road that leads into town. Nexpa is just how I would imagine a sleepy little surf town. Very small, maybe seventy people, travelers included. Thirty or so cabanas along the beach, one little corner store, and surfboards everywhere. We quickly found ourselves a camp spot on the beach including showers, kitchen, and a two story cabana offering us a great place to view our ridiculous sunsets. How much you might ask would such accommodations cost? $3.00 a person each night. Yep, paradise cost only about a quarter of living expenses in SLC.
Paradise also has a world renowned break that happened to kick my butt. Every morning we watched people go out and surf. Studying where to paddle out, where the wave was breaking and how to get back in. Much to my amazement on the second day I made the paddle out. Jeremy and I sat out just past the current and watched these beautiful nine foot waves curl by. I was really enjoying myself; I could see the beach, all the cabanas, and the surrounding country side. Then contrary to every wish in my body a cleanup set came barreling towards us. For those of you who don’t know what a cleanup set is, imagine a white wall of water charging towards you with open arms to carry you back to shore, then times it by five. Every so often these sets come and “clean” everything up, even the surfers. The proper procedure in this situation is to duck dive your board right before it hits you and theoretically it will pass right over you. I decided to ditch the board and ensure my dive would be deep enough to dodge the waves. I made it through all five waves no problem, kept composure and hopped back on the board. The problem then was that the clean up set had carried me into the rip current and I was very rapidly drifting up the coast towards some undesirable beach breaks. The proper thing to do here is to paddle straight out to sea, away from the current and then back to place where the waves are breaking. My problem is that I just haven’t built those paddling muscles, and by then I was more than ready to get out on dry land. Basically, from here I ended up taking the less desirable way back in, survived some huge beach breaking waves, and have attained a whole new respect for the powers of the mighty ocean.
Next to our cabana in Nexpa we had four young guys from Israel who had been staying there for a few weeks and knew quite a bit about the break. They were all great fun, first they made us dinner, and then we drank beers together and learned about life in Israel, all of which I can say was much more enlightening than what I’ve learned from our news back home. They all assured me that they have been “cleaned up” as well many a time by the ocean and that it would only get easier.
One of these guys, Lior, had hurt his shoulder and was itching to go anywhere where he wouldn’t have to spend the days staring at the waves and not surfing. Having the luxurious travel accommodations we have (the van), we invited him along and the three of us set out towards Mexico City.
We headed south to Ixtapa for the night, which as it turns out is a strictly a five-star resort destination. Feeling quite classy we parked the van outside of Club Med and popped the top for the night. From our vantage point Club Med wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, but the morning did bring us some good looking waves. Before I knew it I found myself paddling back out to sea in the hopes of catching a good wave. Although this was no Nexpa, Ixtapa’s waves were roughly 5-6’ tall and still a bit intimidating for me. I gave it a few tries but couldn’t handle the speed of the waves and called it quits after the all the duck diving wore me out. Jeremy on the other hand came out gleaming. Best waves of his life he exclaimed with an ear to ear smile.
Alright moving on; Mexico route 134. We couldn’t quite figure out from the map why this 650 kilometer stretch of highway was said to take eight and half hours. Well as it turns out these clever Mexicans have built a windy highway through the most beautiful, verdant mountains I have ever seen. The 134 cuts indirectly north east from the coast, winding right and left like a meandering river up to about 3,000 meters. There was nothing to see but intense shades of green. Every now and again we would pass a house or a tiny little pueblo but for the most part it was either the black asphalt or the green mountainside. The road continued to climb up into the clouds, and by the time we reached the pass we were in a complete whiteout.
Early the following morning we drove through the adjacent city of Toluca and over the pass into Mexico City. This is kind of like driving from Provo to SLC, but instead of passing the point of the mountain, it is like going over Parley’s Summit. Just over the pass we could see the whole city; white buildings surrounded by green mountains. We prepared ourselves for all the surprises one is supposed to experience in Mexico City: corrupt police, robbers that run up and steal your care while you’re in it, and streets that once you drive down them, you’ll never return. Like most stories about Mexico though (or any other country at that), they are nothing close to ones actual experience.
For us Mexico City has been nothing but an amazing experience. We first headed toward the historic center, driving through some classy neighborhoods (imagine a toned down Beverly Hills). Then onto the main strip of Paseo de la Reforma which is full of European like roundabouts and goes right through town. We found ourselves a nice hotel in the Historic district and have spent the last two days wandering the streets and checking out nearby museums.
Thus far Mexico City is a gem for exploration and I could go on and on about how amazing it is, but that will have to wait for another day. After Jeremy, Lior, and I have a few days to explore every nook and cranny we’ll have a full report typed up and ready for the web.
In the mean time we will check out the famous Museo National de Antropologia, attend a Mexico City soccer game, and eat plenty of the local tortas con jamón for you all.